In The Raven's Shadow

Himinbjorg - In The Raven's Shadow ©1999 Red Stream
1. Guided By The Stars
2. Thiazi's Oyne
3. The Inverted Dimension
4. In The Raven's Shadow
5. In The Forest Of The Demons From Within
6. Rising
7. Dreamwalker
8. The Voice Of Blood
9. Valaskjāslf

The last time I checked, France wasn't known for either its fjords or Viking conquests. So it's a mystery why Himinbjorg plays this "Viking metal" subgenre (well, according to black metal myth, the members are originally from Iceland, but we're not going to cloud this review's premise with facts). But it's no mystery that despite geography questions, they do it quite well. In the Raven's Shadow, the first full length by Himinbjorg (following a mini-CD from 1998), is an outstanding and thoroughly enjoyable album that dwells firmly within a style yet carves out its own niche.

There are naturally similarities between Himinbjorg and better known luminaries of this style. Early Enslaved, particularly Eld and Vikingligr Veldi, meshes with Falkenach to create an often speedy and energetic mixture. Keyboards are used throughout the CD, sometimes in an understudy's role and sometimes in the forefront, such as the neo-ambient "Dreamwalker". Himinbjorg effortlessly shifts between the faster black metal parts to slower, Viking-esque passages. Sounds of nature are occasionally sampled into the music. The vocals switch off from a standard issue black metal rasp to chants and somewhat offkey clean singing. However, that sort of singing has become a trademark of a lot of black metal bands, so it is more of a customary expectation than a turnoff. The one drawback to In the Raven's Shadow is that the production squashes the guitars a bit while giving the percussion a bit too much echo.

For whatever reason, Himinbjorg seems to be a relatively unknown participant in the so-called Viking Metal scene. They are certainly on par with Falkenbach for creating entirely engaging music. Moreover, fans of either Enslaved album mentioned above would most definitely find something of interest on this CD. The French may not have done too well in their twentieth century military endeavors, but perhaps they can go much further with a Viking approach.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 07/2003

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